Holy Sonnet XIV is a soteriological poem in which the speaker asks God to rescue him from sin. Donne writes in the first person, which provides a direct address to God, therefore adding a greater psychological dimension to the poem. When he was studying at Lincoln’s inn, Donne used to write a lot of poetry to impress his friends, and the ladies. Despite this, towards the end of his career, and especially after the death of his wife Ann More, Donne turned his focus to poems based on God, salvation, and death.
Donne opens with a powerful line, in which the speaker demands that God ‘Batter my heart.’ Donne’s use of the imperative ‘batter’ and the syntactical positioning of the word at the beginning of the whole poem portrays how the speaker wants to be punished by God for his sins, and in quite a brutal nature. Donne also utilises monosyllabic words to create a dramatic and emphatic opening. Donne them employs an image of God as a blacksmith, as the speaker asks God to ‘knock, breath, shine’ and ‘break, blow, burn’. This image, which is combined with a beseeching tone, suggests that the speaker believes God is the creator, and that he longs for God to ‘mend’ him, and make him ‘new’.
Donne then uses a simile that states the speaker is ‘like an usurped town’. Although Donne does not say who the town is ‘usurped’ by, it is fair to assume that the ‘town’ is an extended metaphor for the speaker soul, that has been usurped by the devil, after committing a sin. Donne’s use of the verb ‘ursurped’ conveys the feeling that the speaker feels like the devil has got in the way of his relationship with God and tarnished his soul. Moreover, the speaker makes use of a confessional tone, and he also appears to sigh, ‘but O’, because he wants to let God in to his soul, but his sins are stopping him. The speaker continues to confess, stating that he ‘proves weak’ and ‘untrue’, Donne’s use of the noun ‘weak’ emphasises the speakers search for strength inside himself, so that he can salvage his relationship with God, and escape from the devil.
Donne further makes use of imperatives, when the speaker tells God to ‘Divorce me,’ untie or break that knot again’. Donne’s use of the powerful word ‘Divorce’ and the syntactical position at the beginning of the sentence emphasis the feeling of separation that the speaker is trying to convey. The speaker feels that to escape God’s ‘enemy’ Satan, he must ‘break that knot’ with God first. Religion and God were both themes that were typical of the metaphysical style. Samuel Johnson first coined the term ‘Metaphysical poets’ retrospectively in his book ‘Life of Cow Moreover, Professor Colin Burrows stated that the metaphysical poets, which includes George Herbert and Andrew Marvell, were ‘united by their use of far-fetched comparisons, or conceits’, which drew attention to their own ingenuity’.
This poem is written in a petrarchan verse, make up of an octave and a sestet. Donne creates a